Online sustainability degrees

July 14, 2018 · 9 min read · By ASU Online
The ASU Online suite of sustainability degree programs provides numerous paths for interested undergraduate and graduate students.

Do you desire a fulfilling career that prioritizes social and environmental responsibilities, in business, hospitality and other industries? If so, you may want to consider the numerous online sustainability degree programs offered by Arizona State University. These programs are structured to give students the experience and knowledge necessary to create, sustain and improve upon environmental initiatives within companies and government organizations across the world.

In America, 52 percent of people are dissatisfied with the quality of the environment, the highest disapproval rating since Gallup began tracking this statistic 10 years ago. This is also the first time the majority of Americans have felt negatively about the state of the environment. Furthermore, Deloitte’s 2017 Millennial Survey, which compiled insights and opinions from over nearly 8,000 individuals born after 1982 across 30 countries, found 59 percent feel a sense of accountability for protecting the environment, yet only 38 percent agreed they had at least a fair amount of influence over this problem. Additionally, only 13 percent of millennials surveyed said their employers currently address the issues of climate change, environmental protection and preventing or addressing natural disasters.

It’s important to note that millennials believe businesses are influential and accountable in terms of supporting environmental initiatives. The study stated that this is something that businesses must accept in order to support employees’ sense of purpose and promote an engaged workforce. Overall, such research makes it clear that Americans - especially those in the younger generations - will welcome businesses that employees who help their companies take the lead on green initiatives.

This concept is already emerging in various businesses. Some of the world's biggest companies — including Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Disney, Ford, Johnson & Johnson— have implemented environmental initiatives. Such strategies are essential to attract today’s customers, particularly millennials, who are willing to pay more for sustainable offerings, according to a study from Nielsen. Additionally, professional services firm EY found that investors view businesses with environmental, social and/or governance initiatives more favorably.

According to a 2017 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), environmentally conscious policies and clean energy industries can produce new jobs and boost economies. This area is becoming increasingly competitive on a global scale, with the OECD reporting China and India are advancing their sustainability efforts. Based on these trends, it’s likely businesses will want employees with knowledge in sustainability to take charge.

An undergraduate degree, graduate degree or certificate in sustainability can help position you to succeed in this growing field. ASU offers sustainability-related programs through many of its colleges including the ASU School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the U.S. By completing an ASU sustainability program online, you can emerge ready to build a successful career.

A group of men and women sitting in a circle taking notes and talking
A group of sustainability professionals sitting in a circle taking notes and talking. 

Sustainability bachelor’s programs

Business - Sustainability (BA)

An online Bachelor of Arts in business with a concentration in sustainability prepares students for a wide array of careers that account for the growing demand for environmentally conscious leadership. Students will study how sustainability relates to all elements of business, including supply operations, economics and finance, government compliance and more.

Students who successfully complete this program can qualify for a variety of careers in areas such as supply chain management, operations, international development and corporate responsibility.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Business law and ethics.
  • Economics of sustainability.
  • Global supply operations.
  • Organization and management leadership.

Possible careers include:

  • Chief sustainability officer.
  • Regulatory affairs manager.
  • Supply chain manager.
  • Wind energy project manager.


Sustainability (BA)

Students wanting to study the social and human aspects of sustainability should consider an online Bachelor of Arts in this field. The ASU Online sustainability BA provides an overarching approach to the impact of sustainability in everyday lives.

The online Bachelor of Arts in sustainability program approaches this concept from numerous perspectives, including anthropology, urban planning, geography, political science and sociology. Throughout their studies, students will focus on leadership, research and community engagement.

The ASU Online sustainability BA allows students to tailor their curriculum to one of four tracks:

  • International development and sustainability.
  • Policy and governance in sustainable systems.
  • Society and sustainability.
  • Sustainable urban dynamics.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Policy and governance in sustainable systems.
  • Sustainable ecosystems.
  • Sustainable energy, materials and technology.
  • Urban dynamics.

Possible careers include:

  • Climate change analyst.
  • Market research analyst.
  • Soil conservationist.
  • Urban planner.


Sustainability (BS)

The ASU Online Bachelor of Science in sustainability approaches the subject from a technical perspective while equally focusing on related social and human aspects. The program takes a local, regional and global lens to real-world environmental issues and can prepare students to meet the sustainability challenges of today and tomorrow.

This program focuses on the scientific aspects of sustainability. Students can emerge understanding engineering, economics, ecology, conservation, hydrology, earth systems and more, studying how these areas intersect with environmentalism and social institutions. Upon graduation, students can prepare to take leading roles in the development of green technology and research.

Students enrolled in this program can select one of the following tracks:

  • Economics of sustainability.
  • Sustainable ecosystems.
  • Sustainable energy, materials and technology.

Courses cover subjects including:

  • Economics of sustainability.
  • Equity, justice and sustainability.
  • Sustainability and enterprise.
  • Systems thinking.

Possible careers include:

  • Environmental economist.
  • Environmental restoration planner.
  • Industrial ecologist.
  • Solar energy installation manager.

Sustainability master’s programs

Biomimicry (MS)

One of the first programs of its kind, the ASU Online Master of Science in biomimicry helps students learn about this emerging discipline that draws from nature to create solutions for modern, complex problems. Professionals interested in an innovative learning opportunity that combines scientific research, lab work, environmental concepts and social problems are encouraged to explore the world of biomimicry. Students can graduate with the core knowledge necessary to apply the concepts of biomimicry to a variety of industries, including transportation, architecture, product design and more.

Courses of study include:

  • Biomimicry and business.
  • Biomimicry and design.
  • Functional biology.
  • Principles of life.

Possible careers include:

  • Architect.
  • Engineer.
  • Urban planner.


Sustainability leadership (MSL)

The ASU Online Master of Sustainability Leadership program is well suited for professionals who want to lead sustainable and environmental initiatives. Students in the program study the various aspects of sustainability, including renewable energy, environmental science and sustainable policy while exploring leadership concepts.

This program can help students with non-environmental backgrounds, such as engineering, accounting or communications, merge their existing skills with the knowledge needed to enter a high-level sustainability position. The degree is designed to formalize the future of sustainable leadership.

Courses of study include:

  • Global context.
  • Leadership.
  • Sustainability and communication.
  • Sustainability and strategy.

Possible careers include:

  • Chief sustainability officer.
  • Operations manager.
  • Sustainability specialist.
  • Urban or regional planner.


Sustainable engineering (MSE)

Professionals with engineering and physical science backgrounds can focus on advancing their skill set with an online Master of Science in engineering from ASU. This program integrates environmental, social, political and economic factors to create a more robust and forward-thinking engineering program. Students can learn how awareness and consideration of these factors can create more environmentally conscious or sustainable business solutions.

Throughout the program, students will study how considerate design can reflect important environmental and social factors. They can emerge with both the technical and communication skills to stress the importance of sustainable engineering and take a leading role in such projects.

Courses of study include:

  • Civil systems lifecycle assessment.
  • Earth systems engineering.
  • Industrial ecology.
  • Sustainable construction.

Possible careers include:

  • Architectural and engineering manager.
  • Biochemical engineer.
  • Environmental engineering technician.
  • Systems engineer.


Sustainable tourism (MST)

The tourism industry has a huge environmental impact, causing loss of biological diversity, depletion of the ozone layer and an increase in traffic that contributes to climate change. This has led to the destruction of the natural beauty and resources that draw people to such locales in the first place.

As such, the future of the industry demands leaders who will take environmental considerations into account. In fact, many airlines, attractions companies, hotel chains and visitor bureaus have already launched sustainability initiatives, indicating that a background in this field could help graduates find enduring careers with such businesses. The ASU Online Master of Sustainable Tourism helps students meet this demand.

Courses of study include:

  • Sustainable food management.
  • Sustainable destination management.

Possible careers include:

  • Chief sustainability officer.
  • Industrial ecologist.
  • Lodging manager.


Sustainability graduate certificates

Biomimicry (graduate certificate)

Biomimicry is an emerging discipline that draws from nature to create solutions for complex modern problems. Based on one of the first programs of its kind, the ASU Online Biomimicry Graduate Certificate program is designed to help professionals blend biomimicry principles into their current or planned careers.

People interested in an innovative yet flexible learning opportunity that emphasizes the fundamentals of biological processes when solving a variety of real-world issues are encouraged to explore biomimicry. They can graduate with the core knowledge necessary to apply the concepts of biomimicry to roles in industries such as transportation, architecture, product design and more.

Courses of study include:

  • Biomimicry and business.
  • Biomimicry and design.
  • Functional biology.
  • Principles of life.

Possible careers include:

  • Biomimicry consultant.
  • Designer.
  • Researcher.


Social entrepreneurship and community development (graduate certificate)

Built off core concepts from the nonprofit and social sectors, the ASU Online Social Entrepreneurship and Community Development Graduate Certificate spans multiple disciplines and can give students with backgrounds in policy or entrepreneurship the tools to approach these areas from a more conscientious mindset. Such thinking can incorporate the use of sustainable business practices.

Courses of study include:

  • Financial management.
  • Resource management.
  • Social innovation.

Possible careers include:

  • Community specialist.
  • Social and community service manager.
  • Sociologist.


Sustainable tourism (graduate certificate)

As many businesses in the tourism, hospitality and transportation industries have launched sustainability initiatives, professionals may want to learn more about the methods and practices that are proven to work. The ASU Online Sustainable Tourism Graduate Certificate offers an overview of the myriad ways tourism leaders can integrate sustainable practices into their operations. Students who complete this program can learn how tourism affects the local and global environment, how to conduct sustainability audits and how to align economic, business and management concerns with environmentally-conscious practices.

Courses of study include:

  • Sustainable destination management.
  • Sustainable food management.

Possible careers include:

  • Agricultural technician.
  • Sustainability specialist.
  • Urban and regional planner.

Earning a sustainability degree from ASU Online

Sustainability is based on the foundation of taking a forward-thinking approach to solving today's problems. It is also one of the most important concepts of the 21st century, and tomorrow's leaders need a background in conservation, environmental protection and sustainable resourcing.

Whether you choose to earn a certificate or decide to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree, you may find the sustainability education you're looking for with ASU Online. Our comprehensive programs and immersive coursework are designed to teach students about concepts such as clean energy, sociology, supply chain management and more, and shape them into business and social leaders. For those concerned about aligning their education with their job and home life, the flexible nature of online degree programs allows you to learn when you want according to your schedule.

If you're interested in contributing to a future where businesses and employees take accountability for the environment, explore the various undergraduate, graduate and certificate sustainability programs offered by ASU Online and visit the specific program pages to request more information.

Program details are subject to change. Current information can be found by visiting individual program pages on the ASU Online website.

Satisfaction With Quality of Environment in U.S. at New Low by Gallup
The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey by Deloitte
Employment Implications of Green Growth: Linking jobs, growth and green policies by the OECD
Green Generation: Millennials Say Sustainability is a Shopping Priority by Nielsen
Investors see long-term financial benefits in companies with high ESG ratings by EY
ASU Online - Business Sustainability (BA)
ASU Online - Sustainability (BA)
ASU Online - Sustainability (BS)
ASU Online - Biomimicry (MS)
ASU Online - Sustainability Leadership (MSL)
ASU Online - Sustainable Engineering (MSE)
ASU Online - Sustainable Tourism (MST)
ASU Online - Biomimicry (Graduate Certificate)
ASU Online - Social Entrepreneurship and Community Development (Graduate Certificate)
ASU Online - Sustainable Tourism (Graduate Certificate)

A group sits around a square table talking about work
A group of sustainability professionals sit around a square table talking about a project. 
The ASU Online Sustainability degrees are based on the foundation of taking a forward-thinking approach to solving today's problems.
An ASU student smiles at graduation. 


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